Government Resources

Unpaid Work Experience in Australia: Prevalence, Nature and Impact

Government of Australia - December 2016

Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that unpaid work experience (UWE) has become more common in Australia, in part as a response to a deteriorating youth labour market, but also in recognition of the value of ‘work integrated learning’ (WIL). This is part of a global trend with which many other developed economies are grappling.

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Experience or Exploitation? The Nature, Prevalence and Regulation of Unpaid Work Experience, Internships and Trial Periods in Australia

University of Adelaide Law School - January 2013

By Andrew Stewart & Rosemary Owens

In mid-2011 the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) identified unpaid work in Australia as an emerging issue that warranted its attention. This was prompted in particular by a newspaper article advocating the value to businesses of the ‘free labour’ on offer from eager young interns. The FWO responded by developing additional educative materials on the topic and initiating contact and discussion with major stakeholders. But it also determined that further research would be of assistance in an area that raised complex legal issues, and in April 2012 commissioned us to undertake further research.

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Academic Resources

Challenging Intern Nation: A Roundtable with Intern Labour Activists in Canada

tripleC 13(2) - 2015

By Nicole Cohen & Greig de Peuter

Internships have gained critical attention in Canada, thanks largely to the efforts of intern labour activists, who have generated media coverage, lobbied and advised politicians, conducted education and outreach, and advocated for an end to the proliferation of unpaid internships in Canada. This roundtable interview with intern labour activists Ella Henry, Andrew Langille, Joshua Mandryk, and Claire Seaborn was conducted by Nicole Cohen and Greig de Peuter in Toronto on March 1, 2015. Follow up interviewing was conducted over e-mail in May 2015. The interview has been edited and condensed.

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"Getting ahead or exploitation": a comparative analysis of the rise of internships and collective actions to advance the labour rights of interns

Presented at the International Labour Organization conference - June 2015

By Colleen Chen & Clare Ozich

Unpaid internships have become a prominent feature of the youth labour market as young people strive to overcome the paradox of not being able to acquire experience without a job, and acquire a job without experience. The lack of regulation concerning unpaid internships also has the potential to undermine established provisions in the broader employment system and mask the urgency for a long-term plan towards youth employment.

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Great Expectations, Grim Reality: Unpaid Interns and the Dubious Benefits of the DOL Pro Bono Expection

Seton Hall Law Review, Vol. 45:613 - 2015

By Stephanie Pisko

In recent years, the question of which standard governs the legality of unpaid internships has received widespread attention and criticism. Today, the legal debate surrounding unpaid internships is at a peak; the sheer number of interns, the recent litigation challenging the practices of for-profit companies employing unpaid interns, and the unprecedented economic challenges for recent college graduates have created a perfect storm of disgruntlement and backlash. College students lament a system that requires performance of uncompensated and often tedious work in an attempt to advance their professional careers and penetrate a challenging job market. Employers, on the other hand, welcome the opportunity for students to provide free labor.

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No Money, Mo' Problems: Why Unpaid Law Firm Internships Are Illegal and Unethical

University of San Francisco Law Review, Vol. 47 - Winter 2013

By Eric Fink

Unpaid internships once a relatively marginal practice, have become a widespread and substantial feature of the contemporary economy.  The proliferation of the "intern economy" and some high profile lawsuits, in which putative interns contend that they should have been paid as employees, have brought the phenomenon under increased scrutiny and spurred intense debate over its pros and cons.

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The Obama "Crackdown": Another Failed Attempt to Regulate the Explotation of Unpaid Internships

Southwestern Law Review, Vol. 41 - 2012

By Sarah Braun

Most jobs, regardless of whether they are paid, unpaid, volunteer, or temporary positions, offer very different experiences. Unpaid internship experiences, in particular, have become progressively diverse as the number of interns increases nationwide. While some of these unpaid positions are highly exploitative, there are also a significant number of intemships that
offer valuable educational and professional experiences. The following two stories exemplify the extreme diversity that exists among the unpaid intemship experience.

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Unpaid Internships: The history, policy, and future implications of "Fact Sheet #71"

Ohio State Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal, Vol. 6:1 - 2011

By Natalie Bacon

With respect to unpaid internships, there is a disconnect between the law and business practices. While unpaid internship law has strict requirements for which businesses must comply, standard business practice is to have unpaid interns work in ways that violate the law. The federal government sought to diminish this disconnect by issuing Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“Fact Sheet #71”).

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Why Interns Need a Fair Wage

Institute for Public Policy Research - 2010

By Kayte Lawton & Dom Potter

Thousands of organisations across the United Kingdom rely on unpaid workers in the form of interns to do tasks that are vital to their business. In return, unpaid interns gain valuable experience, make important contacts and often get the chance to secure a permanent job in their chosen sector. It sounds like an obvious win – win situation for intern and employer – but what about young people who cannot afford to work for free in this way? This briefing paper examines the role and nature of unpaid internships in the UK.

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Legal Implications of Unpaid Internships

Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol 35, No. 3 - Winter 2009

By Lindsay Coker

Internships offer a great opportunity for someone interested in a certain field to gain experience. In the current economic climate, marked by a significant contraction in entry level positions, new entrants into the workforce are looking to internships with increasing frequency in order to build resumes and as a bridge into a full-time position. Recent layoffs have forced many employees who suddenly are unemployed to consider internships as a means to utilize their skills and prevent a gap in their resume while they search for new employment. Likewise, employers who have no current headcount for new entrants, are adopting a “try before you buy” approach, seeking interns to test a potential employee prior to offering a full-time position. While internships can be beneficial to both the organization and the intern, employers should be mindful of the potential legal perils of hiring unpaid interns. If an intern qualifies as an employee under operative statutes, there may be far-reaching implications for employers. 

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